Hindustan Times, Delhi
On August 19, 2017, a popular independent wrestler made his WWE debut. The fans of NXT were hearing about his arrival for a long time and were waiting eagerly for him to step inside a WWE ring. He did at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn 3 and leveled now WWE Champion Drew McIntyre with a superkick to announce his arrival. Then he bent over and shouted ‘Adam Cole Bay Bay’ with the WWE Universe saying it in unison with him. The rest they say is history.
Adam Cole is now the WWE NXT Champion and one of the most popular superstars in the company. He is the leader of the ‘Undisputed Era’, who are themselves one of the most accomplished factions in NXT history. It feels like whatever Cole touches turns into gold.
His confidence on the mic, his wrestling prowess, and his ability to make the audience care has made him a stalwart in NXT. However, this wasn’t the case when he was about to debut for the biggest wrestling promotion in the world.
Cole admitted in an exclusive conversation with Hindustan Times, that he was extremely nervous about the fact that fans might not recognize him in Brooklyn. But those fears where allayed as soon as he made his entry into the arena.
“I’ll never forget the debut at Takeover: Brooklyn where I jumped now WWE Champion Drew McIntyre. I was so nervous. I thought maybe no one’s going to know who I am; maybe no one’s going to care. God, I hope they care. When they reacted that way, there was excitement and it was like a giant weight was off my back. I was so fired up like they do know me, they are excited,” Cole said.
“Originally I wasn’t going to do Adam Cole Bay Bay at all but as I was walking up to the ramp, the crowd was shouting the catchphrase. I turned around and thought ‘screw it I am going to do it’. I bent down and I did the ‘Adam Cole Bay Bay’ and they did it with me. I was the happiest man in the world. Very Very cool.
It’s just how NXT fans are all around the world. NXT fans are some of the most passionate wrestling fans on the planet. They have been following your career, even before you have been in WWE and it is a big reason why I love NXT so much. If you are an NXT fan around the world, a lot of time you know a lot about pro-wrestling.”
Now, it looks like Cole is going to defend his NXT Championship against Velveteen Dream. He was pinned by the ‘Dream’ this week in a tag team match and now a Velveteen vs Cole match looks likely. However, the ‘Panama City Playboy’ doesn’t look too convinced by his challenger.
“I’ve said it before, I don’t think he is the guy that deserves a shot at my NXT championship but he runs his mouth a lot. However, him pinning me this week did not help my argument in any way. It’s not doing me any favours. So I can see them deciding to go with the Adam Cole vs Velveteen Dream match soon.”
Even though most of the sporting events have been cancelled or postponed, WWE has continued to hold its show at the Performance Center in Florida. They were even deemed ‘essential business’ by the mayor of Orange County. Even the decision has been criticized but Cole says they are proud by the way WWE has handled the crisis and revealed how they are taking precautions during the coronavirus pandemic.
“For me personally, I am really proud for how WWE has handled the situation. If you go to an event and see how it is run, it is with the most limited personnel possible. With the exception of when you are wrestling, everyone keeps their distance.Everyone gets tested that day, checked out and made sure that they are healthy.. With the way the world is right now, obviously, there are no sporting events. I know WWE is really proud of the fact that we still get to provide entertainment for people in a crazy time like this.
Being their personally and seeing how it is handled, it is really cool to how WWE is handling everything to pull this off and respecting the condition. People are keeping the distance, wearing masks, and washing their faces and hands a million times and getting tested. I love it as it keeps me sane in a time like this to work and wrestle still.”
During this time when scientists and governments around the world are asking people to practice social distancing to curb the spread, it is a luxury not given to wrestlers. Professional wrestling is a contact sport and practicing social distancing is impossible for the superstars. So how is Adam Cole holding up during this time while finding the motivation to churn out show after show for the fans?
“This situation that we are in right now is something I personally never experienced. A lot of us actually. I am pretty much respecting this, I am staying put, not going out if I absolutely have to and I know it’s challenging for a lot of people. But for me I live with my girlfriend (Britt Baker), we still watch a lot of wrestling. We are getting to share a lot of one on one time together, which is wonderful.
In a weird type of a way, stepping away from it has made me want wrestling to go back full swing (normal) more than never because so much of our normal lives aren’t the same. As far as motivation, there is hope that we are going to go back to normal sooner than later and at the same time following all the rules.”
One of the big drawbacks of wrestlers performing in empty arenas is the absence of participation of the crowd. Professional wrestling is one of the sports that is very dependent on the reaction of the audience. The relationship between a wrestler and the crowd is very reactive. The likes of Stone Cold, The Rock, John Cena, Chris Jericho, etc were masters of manipulating the audience and had a very ‘reactive’ relationship with the fans.
Adam Cole is also a superstar who is a master at getting the audience to care. His catchphrase ‘Adam Cole Bay Bay’ is an adored phrase by the crowd. As soon as Cole starts with his catchphrase, the crowd erupts in the arena. So how did that catchphrase come about? Cole has an interesting story about its start.
“It was so crazy. First of all before I tell you how I came up with it because a lot of people don’t know this. I have been wrestling for about 12 years and for the first 6-8 years, I did that Adam Cole Bay Bay but no one would pick it up. I just did it myself. Fans would either boo or just stand there and look at me feeling ‘what’s he doing’. But there was a guy Joey Mercury in the WWE and in the independent scene, he was Joey Matthews. On an independent show in Baltimore, Maryland, Joey would beat this guy up and put his fists in the air after every 30-40 seconds and go ‘Joey Matthews’ over and over again. I was a young wrestler watching that and I thought that was so smart. If a non-wrestling guy is watching the show and if he had to remember one name after the end then they would remember ‘Joey Matthews’. Seeing guys like Chris Jericho stand on people’s chest and say ‘Come on Bay Bay’ and the baby was really obnoxious. So I thought that’s something cool too and I decided to mix those two. I started to do ‘Adam Cole Bay Bay’ and with a really obnoxious baby. Just for a really long time I did it and somewhere along the way pretty deep into my independent run, it caught on. I actually think it was after a phase where I out for 3-4 months with an injury. After I came back, I think the fans missed me a little bit and they started chanting my catchphrase with me. I never expected in a million years that it would take off the way it did. It was really cool.”
We know professional wrestling is a land of infinite possibilities. Basically, anything can happen in pro wrestling. With social distancing becoming a common term in the coronavirus phase, we asked Cole to pick a wrestler who had the ability to get a ‘social distancing’ gimmick over with the crowd. Cole had a compelling answer.
‘One guy believe it or not who can pull it off in an incredibly entertaining way. With just the things he would say, the things he would wear, Matt Riddle could pull that off. A guy as talented as him, both in the ring and outside, with his demeanor and his character, can do it. Some vignettes of Matt Riddle with the social distancing gimmick would be really good. Now I am laughing just thinking about that. He would do awesome.”
Even though NXT is the third brand of WWE, Adam Cole still enjoys a massive fan base in India. The second most populous nation has a big wrestling fan base and is currently one of the most frequent users on WWE’s social media accounts. Cole is also itching to perform in India and wants to experience ‘what India has to offer.’
“I have travelled to a lot of cool places. India is one place I haven’t wrestled and I want to go so bad. I want to experience everything that India has to offer and get the chance to perform over there. Someday soon I hope it happens, I would love that.”
Watch Adam Cole on WWE NXT live and exclusive on Thursday on SONY TEN 1 and SONY TEN 3 channels from 05:30 AM (IST)
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